Project Residents Say Fences To Create Jail Setting

February 04, 1991|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

Annapolis Alderman Samuel Gilmer learned a few things Saturday aboutfighting drugs and crime in the city's housing projects.

Residents are dead set against sealing the projects off by putting up gates and fences. And parents don't want the city to impose a curfew on their children.

For two hours, the Ward 3 alderman and two other city officials listened as 35 people -- most residents of the city's public housing projects -- offered their suggestions on how to deal with rising violence in the state's capital.

Speaking in the American Legion Hall on Forest Drive, they called for more police patrols and more activities to get children off the streets. They said it was time parents disciplined their kids to stay away from drugs and guns. Some suggested parents be jailed for crimes their children commit.

But nearly everyone agreed there were better ways to spend money then to fence in communities.

"Then it really would be like a jail," said Sandra Chapman, who lives in Hillsmere. "I would see it as them trying to keep all the problems in the projects. The city won't do a damn thing unless it spills over into the nice white communities."

Chapman told Gilmer that unless the individual communities want to be sealed off, "they will fight you all the way."

Last month during a press conference called by the city's black leaders, Gilmer proposed building gates and fences around the communities to help keep drug dealers away.A record five murders took place in Annapolis last year, up from three in 1989.

Gilmer said Saturday that the proposal was a way to get people talking. "I just wanted to put a spark out there so people would consider what could happen to them," he said.

Many people expressed doubt that they would have much input into the decisions the politicians will make. "The public housing community is not going to come to you," said Carolyn Butler, a former 20-year resident of Annapolis Gardens. "You are going to have to come to us."

Gilmer pleaded with people to voice their opinions at meetings like Saturday's andat city council meetings where the issues are debated. But people said residents are scared to come out, scared of the police and scared to call the police.

Gilmer said he knows of a group of black children who have tried to walk into downtown Annapolis to attend dances, only to be followed and intimidated by police officers wanting to know where they were going and why they are out.

"The only time they have had the pleasure of going downtown is when some of their white friends go with them," Gilmer said. "These are some of the things we have to deal with."

A woman in the audience said that when residents call police, "they come right to your door and everybody knows you called them. That makes people want to close their eyes to crime."

But residents said a curfew isn't the answer either, adding that it would only be imposed in black neighborhoods.

"Start downtown where the drugs come into the city," said Michael Brown, who would only say he is a lifetime Annapolitian. "(Many) downtown businesses are drug dealers. In the clubs, people go in to talk about who is going to get this part of the city."

Joseph Edward "Sugar Foot" Simms, who lives on West Washington Street, said drugs will continue to come intothe city. "Thesedrugs come into the community to keep you down," he said. "The youth gets hold of it because our government wants them to. Our kids give it to each other because they don't know any better.

"The problem is the parents," Simms said. "The parents don't knowwhat their kids are doing. You aren't going to deal with your problem by locking everybody up and all this crazy stuff. We got to go backto basics."

But residents said support groups are out there; the problem is getting people to use them. They said community and recreation centers offer programs, but it isn't easy for people to get there.

"We don't need to reinvent any wheel," said the Rev. Ricky Spain, of the Mt. Olive AME Church. "We have to take the wheel we alreadyhave and make it work."

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